Bulldogs top five: Versatile Frank Sinkwich became SEC's first Heisman winner in 1942

AP photo / Georgia halfback Frank Sinkwich poses for a photo in 1941, when as a junior he set the SEC's single-season rushing record with 1,103 yards despite playing much of the season with a broken jaw that required a bulky guard for his face.
AP photo / Georgia halfback Frank Sinkwich poses for a photo in 1941, when as a junior he set the SEC's single-season rushing record with 1,103 yards despite playing much of the season with a broken jaw that required a bulky guard for his face.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first story in a series counting down the top five players in University of Georgia football history. A companion series for Tennessee is planned for May 18-22; an Alabama series was published on May 4-8.

When LSU quarterback Joe Burrow ran away with the Heisman Trophy balloting this past December, it marked the sixth time in the past 13 years that a Southeastern Conference player received college football's top individual award.

It wasn't always that way.

During the first 24 seasons in which the Heisman was awarded - 1935 to 1958 - the only recipient from the SEC was Georgia halfback Frank Sinkwich in 1942.

Long before Florida's Tim Tebow, Auburn's Cam Newton, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and LSU's Burrow were showcasing their passing and rushing talents, Sinkwich displayed his versatility during three seasons in Athens that yielded a trip to the Orange Bowl in 1941 and a lengthier trip to the Rose Bowl in 1942. Those were the first two postseason journeys in program history.

Sinkwich's balance is best reflected by his statistics, as the standout from Youngstown, Ohio, amassed 2,331 passing yards and 2,271 rushing yards during his Bulldogs career. He accounted for 30 aerial touchdowns and 30 rushing scores as well.

As a junior in 1941, Sinkwich suffered a broken jaw and had to play with a protective mask from the third game through the rest of the season. He set the SEC's single-season rushing record with 1,103 yards and added 713 passing yards to snag another league mark with 1,816 yards of total offense.

Georgia went 8-1-1 during the 1941 regular season, losing only to Alabama in Birmingham, but Sinkwich was saving his best for the Orange Bowl.

In a 40-26 win over TCU, Sinkwich rushed for 139 yards and was 9-of-13 passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His 382 yards of total offense has been regarded for decades as one of the best performances in bowl history.

After setting the league's single-season rushing record as a junior, he added the SEC passing mark as a senior with 1,392 yards. Coupled with 795 rushing yards, Sinkwich was able to establish a new total offense mark at 2,187.

Only a 27-13 loss to Auburn in Columbus kept the Bulldogs from an 11-0 regular season, and they capped the season with a 9-0 blanking of UCLA out in Pasadena. Sinkwich played in the Rose Bowl despite having two sprained ankles, yet he still managed to tally the game's only touchdown.

Though Sinkwich received 56.2% of the Heisman vote in 1942, which was the highest amount ever at that time, the far more amazing accomplishment was being named athlete of the year by The Associated Press over Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Williams won baseball's triple crown in 1942 with a .356 batting average, 36 home runs and 137 RBIs.

Sinkwich became the top overall pick of the 1943 NFL draft, getting selected by the Detroit Lions, and had his No. 21 jersey with the Bulldogs retired that same year. The 1954 College Football Hall of Fame inductee died in Athens in 1990 after a long illness at the age of 70.

Said Vince Dooley, the former Bulldogs coach who was the school's athletic director at the time: "We've lost one of the great legends in football history."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.


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